Wednesday, May 18, 2011


O is for onions!

See, I cook. I cook a lot! And every recipe I make starts with: take a gorgeous onion.

I came to Israel in 1970 with two girlfriends. We all took a year's leave of absence from our places of work and came to the Holy Land for a year...just one year.

Arriving in August, we made plans to stay in Tel Aviv not far from the Sheraton Hotel. After all, since we were now free agents, it was stupid to spend the summer away from the Sea.

Hot! You want to talk about hot? No air ice real Coke just something cloyingly sweet called Tempo. No hamburgers. When we got to the point of passing out, we would put on our 'American Tourist' clothes and go sit in the lobby of one of the fancy hotels up the street.

But when September came, we moved into our apartment on HaPalmach Street in Jerusalem. Lovely place. Did I mention we were on the top floor...56 elevator? I didn't mention that part, did I. Sigh.

As soon as we settled in, we went up the street to the local supermarket...I think it was Supersol. Now, in 1970 in Israel they didn't have plastic bags...and God forbid they should kill a tree to make paper bags!!! NAY NAY. They had hard plastic bags that only felt good when they were empty. As soon as you put three eggs or one bottle of milk inside, the handle began chopping off your fingers.

But even worse! If you forgot the damn bag, then you had to climb the 56 stairs all over again. We were like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie learning how to milk a cow. Well, we were cute but not that cute and we certainly didn't have a gazillianth of their cash waiting when we got home.

Nope, we had the bags and the stairs and a year in front of us.

Now, at the time, the only languages spoken in the country were Hebrew, Arabic and French. No one admitted to understanding my Canadian French and everyone shuddered when I tried Yiddish. Everything in the supermarket was marked in Hebrew and Arabic. Could have been Chinese or Amharic. If the can didn't have a picture on it then it was an interesting meal we had that night.

Rosh HaShanah came quickly and we decided to make chicken soup and chicken and hamburgers and mashed potatoes. Forty years have passed and I remember that menu. The meat was so salty we couldn't eat it. The chicken soup looked gray and was so salty we couldn't eat it. Kosher careful how you season it when cooking. WELL NO ONE TOLD ME THAT!!!

We ended up eating the Telma packaged instant soup and cried. I wrote Bubbie Channah the following letter...Dear Ma...You remember when I had to clean my plate because of all the starving children in Europe? Well, I never thought I'd be one of them. Love, Marallyn

One day, after the holidays we went to the Old City and in order to get out of the heat entered Select Restaurant next to the Police Station just inside the Jaffa Gate.

We didn't have much money to spend in a  restaurant but we ordered something and the waiter brought us all kinds of little dishes with salads. We licked the platter clean!

The owner, Daud came and sat with us. When he heard our plight, he invited us to show up at his place every morning for a week at 7:00 and he taught us how to cook!!! Yahoooo, we're in business!!! A few years later Daud left the Old City and moved to Detroit where he opened another restaurant. I hope he made a million bucks 'cause he sure saved our tushies.

Then, I met my husband and spent my mornings in my mother-in-law's kitchen learning to cook their food. Kurdi food. You want to talk about delicious??? Kubbeh, Yaprach, yum yum.

Now, I cook Kurdi food, Persian (Iranian) food, Moroccan food, a little Italian, a dash of Mexican...and every recipe starts off with a gorgeous onion.

Here's my favorite mejaderah recipe:
2 gorgeous large onions
1 cup rice
1 cup green lentils
1 teaspoon...or more...cumin
1 teaspoon salt or chicken soup powder...more if you want
pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 1/3 cup water for the rice and as much water as you need to cook the lentils

To make the lentils and rice

Cover the lentils with water and cook until tender.

In another pot sauté 1 chopped onion in 1 Tbls of olive oil until translucent then add the rice, cumin, the salt/pepper or chicken soup powder. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer until the rice is cooked through. Once the rice is finished mix in the lentils.

To make the crispy onion garnish. 

Slice the remaining onion and heat the remaining olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate all the slices, adding a little salt as they saute. When the onions go in they should sizzle. Saute the onion on high heat stirring frequently until the slices turn brown, then reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook until they have small dark spots and are crispy

Have a great day...stay safe...and thanks for dropping in.


At 7:12 PM, Blogger Batya said...

Oh, darling, I love this story. You must send it to KCC the kosher cooking carnival even though it's not quite kosher. The recipe is, so tell the host blog that I said it must be included.

ps you'll get more visits to the blog if you visit and comment on other blogs. I've been waiting...


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